tv U.S. Senate CSPAN July 10, 2012 12:00pm-5:00pm EDT
the presiding officer: are there any senators in the chamber wishing to vote or change their vote? on this vote, the yeas are 94, the nays are 2. the nomination is confirmed. under the previous order, the motion to reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table. the president will immediately be notified of the senate's action and the?
the will resume legislative session. under the previous order, the senate stands in recess until 2:15 p.m. recess: senators will vote at 2:25 p.m. eastern on moving that bill forward and we'll have live coverage here when the senate returns on c-span2. right now take you live to the cannon house office building on capitol hill. right now a house homeland security subcommittee is looking into ways to better protect the us air and
surface transportation from a possible terrorist attack. a former transportation department official, tom blanks, will testify alongwith a couple of counter terrorism experts. this hearing has been underway for about 10, 11 minutes. and we're hearing opening statements now. >> to continue to improve the system that secures our nation's skies. today we'll take a closer look at tsa's risk based approach and the effort. there have been many changes and they are looking forward to those changes the threat to inbound passenger and cargo flights remains reality. these threats can only be resolved if members of body are not afraid to ask difficult questions or embrace difficult answers and not take a widespread view we must throw out the transportation security administration. our witnesses will discuss various ideas of improving tsa risk based approach to secure the aviation sector. as authorizing committee for tsa it is appropriate for us
to consider ideas for those who do not work for tsa i look for to hearing from police alonzo a flight attendant how tsa can enhance security. as we know flight attendants do not serve, flight attendants do not just serve beverages. they're often the first crewmembers to recognize safety and security problems. a week ago in china, crewmembers and passengers foiled a hijacking as six people attempted to break into the cockpit door. further just this year we had number of instances where decisive actions of flight personnel assured safety and security of passengers. in each of these instances in-cabin security was the last line of defense in thwarting potential terrorist acts. let's remember these incidents that frame our security discussions today. i'll just highlight december 22nd, flight 63, american airlines from miami, from to miami from paris. self-proclaimed al qaeda operative attempted to
detonate explosive deis have. december 25th. oman. christmas day bomber, remembered as christmas day bomber attempted to designate his underwear. a flight from charlotte was diverted to bangor after passenger claimed to have explosive device on their body. these took place on flights inbound to the united states. miss alonzo was on the flight in may. i look forward to hear her testimony on this incident. her testimony will provide operational insight we need to examine what should be done when all other layers of security has been compromised. yes we need to expand tsa to other modes of transportation. yes, we need to efficient, effective and how we use the personnel at tsa but i will be continuously committed to the structure that we put in place. let's look for solutions and answers as we work to improve the security of this nation. i yield back. >> i thank the gentlelady and the chair now will recess the committee for, to subject to call.
chair. we should be about 15 minutes. >> let me know when you're ready. so the house is voting on the a motion to adjourn. voting on a debate to repeal the health care law. that while we're awaiting for house members arrive at the hearing and continue we'll look at senate reaction this morning to president obama's plan to continue the middle class tax cut but the national cut for high earners.
we'll begin with republican leader, mitch mcconnell. >> friday morning the american people woke up to the news that the economy is on life-support. and the first response of the president of the united states was that we're headed in the right direction. the president says, we're headed in the right direction. just think about that for a second. the president's first reaction to the news that more americans signed up for disability last month than got jobs was to flash a thumb's up and head back to the campaign trail. just like his first reaction to a question about the economy at a recent white house press conference was to say that the private sector is doing just fine. well obviously answers like that just aren't going to cut it. the president's advisors must be telling him that much so yesterday the president, the man at the wheel, changed his tune by doing his washington best to
change the subject. for 3 1/2 years this white house has shown an utter lack of imagination when it comes to jobs and the economy. it is a solution doesn't involve more government, they're not interested. that is all they have got. so yesterday the president went back to the same well one more time. after 3 1/2 years of more government, more debt, more spending, more taxes, more regulations, demanded even more. yesterday the president issued an ultimatum. raise taxes on about a million business owners to fund more government, and i won't raise taxes on the rest of you. raise taxes on about a million business owners, and i won't raise taxes on the rest of you. that was his considered response to this crisis.
now let's leave aside for a second the complete and absurdity of raising taxes on job creators in the middle of what some are calling the slowest recovery ever. leave that aside and ask yourself a more fundamental question. who's money is it in the first place? whose money is it in the first place? i mean why should small businesses be put on the defensive about keeping money they have worked for, and earned? it seems like every day for the past 3 1/2 years we've woken up to stories about waste and abuse in government, whether it is a bankrupt solar company, or the $800,000 party some government agency threw for itself, or this week's report that we overspent on unemployment benefits by about $14 billion. as far as i'm concerned, there shouldn't even be a debate here. government doesn't need anymore money. it's government that should be answering to us for the
tax dollars it has wasted and misdirected? it's the president who should be on the defensive? he's the one who pledge would cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term but doubled it instead. he is the one who spent the first 3 1/2 years of his administration shattering spending records. and now he wants us to believe that he will direct new tax revenue toward tackling the deficit? look, yesterday's announcement was many things but let's be honest, it wasn't a plan for deficit reduction. and it sure wasn't a plan for job creation. first and foremost it was a distraction. by any standard the president has a nightmarish economic record, a nightmarish economic record. by demanding higher taxes on
the few, he is trying to direct attention from it. second, it's deeply idealogical. the president has already admitted that the last thing you do in the middle of a recession is raise taxes. he knows yesterday's proposal would only make the economy worse. he knows that. his goal isn't jobs, it is income redistribution. it is his idea of fairness, which means you earn, he takes. his definition of fairness means, you earn, and he takes. and third it's purely political. the president's top priority for the last year hasn't been creating jobs. it has been saving his own. say it again. the top priority of the president the last year hasn't been creating jobs for anybody else, it is saving his own job. and his advisors seem to think if they create enough
scapegoats, he will slip by in november. that's why he spent the past year trying to convince the public somehow his predecessor is more responsible for the economic failures of the past 3 1/2 years than he is. that all the bailouts, and the trillions in borrowed money, and the government takeover of health care, and the onslaught of bureaucratic red tape and regulations are somehow irrelevant to the fact that we're mired in the slowest economic recovery in modern times. that we just one more stimulus away from an economic boom. that the fact that we've had unemployment above 8% for 41 straight months, that has nothing to do with the policies he put in place in his first two years in
office. that all these massive pieces of legislation he touted were somehow hugely historic and yet at the same time completely unrelated to the joblessness, uncertainty, and decline we've seen almost every day since. it's this kind of economic thinking that leads to the kind of proposal the president announced yesterday which says that a tax hike is harmful to middle income earners but somehow meaningless for the 940,000 business owners who will get slammed by this tax hike as well as all the other tax hikes the president has in store for them at the end of this year. the sad truth is, that the president isn't just ignoring the economic problems we face, he is exacerbating them. and he's running us headlong into the cliff that is fast
approaching in january. now frankly it is hard to imagine a president deliberately doing all these things he knows will only make things worse. but that's where we are. and now it is incumbent on the rest of us to outline a better path. and that's what we support, common sense, pro-growth policies that liberate the private sector. it starts by repealing a health care law that is stifling businesses, by ending the senseless regulations that are crushing businesses, by ending the threats of tax hikes on businesses that can't afford them, and by putting our faith in free enterprise over the dib states of a centralized government. in the obama economy we need policies that are designed to create jobs, not destroy
them. no one should see an income tax hike next year, no one. not families, not small businesses, no one. we should extend all income tax rates while we make progress on fundamental tax reform. it's time to put the failed policies of the past 3 1/2 years aside and try something else. washington has done enough damage to the economy already. let's focus on the kind of pro-growth jobs proposals that the republican-led house has already passed. and above all, let's do no harm. it's time to give the private sector, and the innovators, and the workers who drive it a fighting chance. mr. president, i yield the
floor. >> so we continue to wait for this house homeland security subcommittee to get back underway, a hearing looking into ways to better protect the u.s., our air and surface transportation from possible terrorist attacks. the reason we're waiting there is a vote on the floor of the house right now. a motion to adjourn. prior to the debate on a discussion or a debate on repealing the health care law. we expect the motion to adjourn not to pass but as members vote, we're waiting for this hearing to get back underway. as we do that we will show you majority whip dick durbin from the floor of the senate earlier today. >> mr. president. >> senator from illinois. >> mr. president, it has been three years, three years since my colleague from kentucky who just spoke announced to the america that his highest priority as a senate leader was to make sure that barack obama was a one-term president. . . barrack obama was a one-term
president. since then we've seen a record number of republican filibusters on the senate, broken all records in terms of efforts to stop even to allow a vote on the priorities of the obama administration. and then for the republican leader to come to the floor and bemoan the fact that president has not done more suggests that he believes we're victims of political amnesia, and we're not. we know when the president came with a stimulus bill, when we were losing 800,000 jobs a month, that's what we were losing the month the president was sworn in, he came with a stimulus bill to turn the economy around to give tax breaks to businesses and individuals, we ebbed ended up getting three republicans who would join us over the objection of their leadership. we needed those three to break the republican filibuster on the president's effort to get the economy moving forward again. and when it came time for health care reform, senator baucus, chairman of the finance committee, invited the
republicans in to sit down and construct a bipartisan bill with us and they walked away. they walked away. and then started a republican filibuster against any change in health care reform. do you remember the republican alternative for health care reform? of course you don't because there wasn't any. they didn't have a bill. they didn't have a good idea. they were just here to say no. and to use their filibuster to achieve it. the story is repeated over and over again, trying to rein in wall street greed so we don't go through another recession like the one we're living through now, not a single republican would step up and support that, not one and we faced a republican filibuster again. so for the republican leaderdom to come to come to the floor and bemoan certain things have not bemoan certain things have not that he said his highest priority was to make barack obama a one-term president, and he has shown it with an endless streamover republican filly
busters. now let's get down to tax cuts. what president obama saidr yesterday was this: to every000 single american, your firstirst $250,000 in income, your first $250,000 will continue to receive a good tax break. there will be no increase in taxes on your first $250,000 in income. now, for 98% of americans,at. that's great. because they make less than the $250,000. so they're not going to see any tax increase by the president's proposal.he but for the 2% who make more than 250,000, the president's fr suggestion was let's go back tod the tax breaks for that money earned over 250, go back to the clinton yearshe which was a time of dramatic economic expansion and the last time, the last time we in b washington balanced aal budget. that's not a radical idea, it's a sensible idea.he and you can't come to the floor of the senate day after day and
week after week posing for holy pictures about dealing with the deficit. when you start raising taxes this much on 2% of the american people, oh, that's just unacceptable. the only way to reach fiscal stability and deal with thecit deficit and deficit is to put it all on the table, to make sure that spending as well as revenur are on thee table. and if we can't touch income over $250,000 for the top 2% of americans, we will nevereal honestly deal with the deficit crisis. the republican leader came tond the floor and said, well, last week's employment numbers were not that encouraging, and i would join him in saying i wish they were better too. i'm not going to tell you this w is where i want to be. but i will say this, for 28trai straight months, 28 straight months under president obama wev have seen increases in privatepv sector employment.re jobs are being lost in the public sector, you know that. b
being lost back home as stated l and local governments and others are reducing their payrolls. that's part of it. it's one of the reasons why we p haven'tay seen a more fulsome growth in employment. that's a reality. but private sector job growth has continued for 28 straightths months. and for the republican leader to suggest the president took this news and then went out on the campaign trail, he forgot something. last friday president barackside obama signed the bipartisan transportation bill, a billor which willta create and keep twe million americans working in this country building the infrastructure that we need, at bill we've been waiting for fore three years, and the president signed it.gned and i'm glad he did. it helps illinois, and it helps the nation. let me also say that we can do things, more things, to help get this economy moving forward.'d the first thing i'd like to see is the republicans to end theirb filibuster against the small business bill we'll have before
us today. this bill says to small businesses across america we will give you a tax credit if youyo will create jobs or if you will expand your payroll. a tax credit.l and we will give you a quicker depreciation on those items of equipment, technology and capital that you purchase now. this would be a shot in the arm. it's a recipe every republican has sworn to grover norquist they're going to stand by hell or high water to cut taxes, cuts taxes on small businesses sove t they create jobs. give them a break to buy equipment -- >> and we're going to cut away c from this portion of earlier discussion on the floor of the u.s. senate, take you back live now over to the other side of the u.s. capitol, the cannon house office building, where house homeland security subcommittee back underway talking about ways to better protect the u.s. air and surface transportation assets from a possible terrorist attack. live coverage on c-span2. >> transportation issues for the
public work financing. the chair recognizes mr. poole for his opening statement. you're recognized for five minutes. >> thank you for having me, mr. chairman. i've been researching aviation security since 2001, and i've been studying competitive contracting of public services since i wrote the first book on the subject in 1980. when congress enacted the legislation after 9/11, it built in a conflict of interest for the tsa. that agency is in charge of aviation security regulation, but it also operates the largest component of airport security, passenger and baggage screening. tsa regulates airports, airlines, railroads and transit at arm's length, but when it comes to passenger screening, tsa basically regulates itself. self-regulation is unherntly problematic -- inherently problematic. the tendency of any large organization is to defend itself against criticism and make its image as positive as possible, so when screeners perform
poorly, tsa minimizes the problem. in addition, having tsa operate the screening conflicts with the idea of unified airport security, accountable to a single airport security official. the u.s. model that combines regulation and screening is also out of step with other countries. i did a report for the oecd on screening in 2008. i compared the way it's done in canada, the e.u. and the united states. and canada and the e.u. security regulation is done by a national agency, like here, but the screening is done either by the airport or by security companies. separation of regulation from service provision is also called for by ikeo security regulations. member states are supposed to notify ikeo if their practice differs from the standard. the united states has never notified ikeo that we are in noncompliance. oddly enough, the united states came close to adopting this model.
following 9/11, the house version removed airport screening from airlines and made it an airport responsibility under new federal regulation and oversight. but many officials and commentators incorrectly believed that flawed screening was what enabled the 9/11 attacks to succeed, which was not the case. so, therefore, they insisted on federalizing screening, meaning a federal work force to take it over. that approach passed the senate unanimously. in a conference committee, unfortunately from my standpoint, the senate prevailed, and the promise that all other airports could eventually opt out. so when travis created the -- tsa created the opt-out program, it designed a highly centralized version of competitive contract. when most governments want to contract for a service, they select the best proposal, sign a contract and manage the relationship. so you'd expect that as in europe the airport would issue the rfp to companies that tsa
had certified, the airport would select the best proposal from among those companies and then contract with that company, and tsa would regulate the overall situation. but that's not how sbp works. instead, the airport asks tsa if it may opt out. if tsa approves, then tsa selects a contractor and assigns it to the airport. tsa signs the contract to manage the contract leaving the airport out of the loop. tsa also spells out in detail the procedures and the equipment that the company must use and mandates that they must pay the same benefits as tsa. if we had that approach, tsa would certify qualified companies, would define the outcome measures that are supposed to be achieved for airport screening. the companies could design their own procedures and use various approved technologies to achieve the required outcomes. this would allow screening companies to innovate. for example, screeners could be cross-trained to do other airport security tasks, thereby
strengthening other aspects of airport security and enriching the screeners' work experience. now, even with all the constraints on today's contractors, the private sector is delivering more cost effective screening. the house tni committee in 2011 compared tsa screening at lax with contract screening at sfo. they found sfo is 65% more productive than the tsa screening at lax, and if the sfo model were implemented at lax, the savings would be $42 million for year. and the reason for this productivity, much higher turnover of tsa screenings, so recruitment and training costs are higher. tsa has to use its national deployment force which is very expensive to fill in the gaps caused by that high attrition rate, and security companies also do a much better job of using part-time screeners to cover the peak periods instead of having almost all full-time people. i have two recommendations for
reform of program. first, reduce the centralized nature of spp but permitting each airport to choose its own screening company from among those tsa has certified and let the airport manage the contract under tsa's overall regulatory oversight at the airport. second, and probably longer term, congress should revise the legislation to remove the built-in conflict of interest, devolving all screening to the airport. each airport could either operate and manage the screening itself as many airports in europe do, or contract with a tsa-approved company. in either case, current tsa screeners would and should have first preference for the screening jobs. this change would produce greater accountability, and it would bring the united states into conformity with ikeo regulations. thank you for this time, and i'll be happy to answer questions later. >> thank you, mr. poole, for your testimony. our third witness, mr. ozzie nelson. i like that. [laughter] i grew up in that era.
some of these youngsters doesn't know who that is, but i think that's pretty cool. [laughter] currently serves as senior fellow and director of homeland security and counterterrorism program at the center for strategic and international studies. mr. nelson joined csis in september 2009 after retiring from the u.s. navy where he serve inside a variety of senior policy and operational positions. in 2005 he was selected to serve as an inaugural member of the national counterterrorism center's directorate of strategic planning. prior to assigning, he served as the associate director for maritime security in the office on combating terrorism at the white house where he led the development of the national security -- national strategy on maritime security. chair now recognizes mr. nelson for five minutes to summarize his testimony. >> thank you. good afternoon, chairman longers, ranking member jackson-lee and distinguished members of the subcommittee. i'd like to take this time to
discuss how the transportation security administration, congress, and the american people can work together to enhance aviation security in the coming years. the manner in which tsa was created have, unfortunately, led to an inherently flawed system. the tsa was not carefully designed, but instead cobbled together and stood up in the middle of a crisis just a few short months after 9/11. further, we charged it with the immense responsibility of mitigating every potential risk to america's transportation system. in doing so, we've created an unworkable construct in which no risk was acceptable. the untenable model have constrained tsa and fueled bad policy and bad practice. if tsa is to become the agency we want it to be, then we must give it the support and operational freedom it needs to evolve. at the same time, we must remain cognizant of the continued threats to the homeland. the core of al-qaeda has been significantly reduced, its international affiliates continue to pose a threat to the system. my remarks will focus on three
key areas; risk-based strategies, technology and strategic communications. the first step in tsa's evolution must be a full embrace of intelligence-driven, risk-based models of security. while significant progress has been made under administrator pistol, it still tends to treat every passenger as a potential terrorist, wasting time and resources. adopting a model of security based on risk in which limited resources are applied strategically would increase the effectiveness of our overall security efforts and decrease the costs associated with screening millions of individuals every day. key to the success of this risk-based model would be information and intelligence-sharing efforts. while significant process has been made at the federal level, we still need to perfect sharing with state and local entities as well as the private sector, further given the international nature of the aviation system, we must ip m prove with our -- improve with our superb national partners. -- with our international partners.
we must seek to expand these types of programs. as we move forward, we must remember that with these efforts, risk-based screening do involve an inherent degree of risk, and we must be willing to accept potential consequences. we simply cannot revert to a zero failure model if and when there's another terrorist incident, but we must commit ourselves to making a risk-based model work. yet adopting risk-based security will not be enough. fiscal austerity, technology represents another means of -- [inaudible] therefore it is essential that the budget be maintained. while there may be immense short-term pressure, congress must think of the long-term savings and efficiency the technology represents. for instance, s&t recently created technology for detecting explosives in checked luggage which is ten times more powerful yet still costs the same. it will be necessary to invest in homeland securities. an important step would be for
dhs to issue clear requirements and provide multiyear funding guidance which will help private industry in the direction it needs through developing technologies. it also would be worthwhile to investigate the feasibility of a venture capital firm that would identify and invest in companies developing cutting-edge technologies. and developing such a model, tsa could look at the relationship with the intelligence community. yet even if technologies are improved, tsa will continue to face challenges with its public images, hindering its evolution. few, if any, u.s. government agencies interact at such a personal level with the general public. while tsa has gun implementing initiatives, it will be impossible for them to improve their image significantly if government, if government officials continue to use the agency as a source of political rhetoric. tsa can grow to a respected, efficient, effective institution only if it is depoliticized. tsa also needs to communicate
with and utilize travelers to a greater degree for everyone's mutual benefit. tsa should explore programs such as dhs' if you see something, say something campaign and then trusting them to do this. tsa can utilize passengers in a constructive manner. finally, tsa would benefit immensely from a greater degree of leadership continuity. tsa's challenging mission demands leadership that transcends the political cycle. the administrative position should perhaps be treated similar to the director of the fbi. since its inception, tsa has had five administrators while the fbi has had one director. it would help them depoliticize the position and involve the organization into what we need it to be. in conclusion, there are a variety of means by which we can meet these challenges, particularly aviation. i want to recognize that tsa is already on the right path forward finding innovative ways
to meet these challenges and should be commended for leadership. i look forward to your questions, thank you for the opportunity to testify. >> thank you, mr. nelson. those are some very intriguing thoughts. our next witness, mr. tom blank, currently serves as executive vice president of the gephardt group. in 2006 he served at the tsa as acting deputy administrator where he oversaw relationship building during a series of major changes following 9/11. he was later tasked as tsa's chief support systems officer in charge of technology development, nationwide deployment of federal screener resource and the agency-wide reform of acquisition function. chair now recognizes mr. blank for five minutes to summarize his testimony. >> chairman rogers, members of the subcommittee, thank you for the invitation to appear here today. as a former tsa senior
executive, i can attest to the commitment of the agency's men and women who do their utmost 24/7 to keep americans secure in all modes of transportation functioning freely. as this subcommittee weighs the future of tsa, it's important that you consider steps that will support tsa in enhancing its consistency, credibility and currency. first, consistency. in management, organization and leadership. in the years following tsa's creation with the signing of the aviation and transportation security act in many november 2001, the congress has acted to change a range of the act's original provisions. the post of undersecretary for transportation security was created as the third-ranking position in the u.s. department of transportation hierarchy and accorded the post the same executive rank as the d.o.t. deputy secretary. most importantly, it created the post for the stated term of five
years. over the intervening year, the five-year term provision was removed, and the executive rank of the tsa administrator was reduced. i submit that at the least the five-year term stipulation be reinstituted because it will help assure leadership consistency and nonpartisanship over the long term. it will help make management of the agency more predictable and permit the overall organization to focus more intently on mission execution. since tsa was created nearly 11 years ago, there have been six tsa administrators including one long-term acting leader and the same number of deputy administrators including my brief acting tenure and the most current appointee who just assumed his post. with changes at the top usually come a rewiring of the organization chart and a reallocation of responsibilities. from consistency in leadership would come broad policy and operation alibi-in by government and private sector stakeholders.
such buy-in from stakeholders remains critical to tsa's homeland security mission success. the five-year term provisions mirrors that of the faa administrator for many of the same reasons. second, credibility. by taking steps to reduce adverse passenger experiences at the checkpoint, a potential path to achieving this credibility is the empowerment of the tsa work force of checkpoint supervisors to intervene in screening processes and to defuse those situations that often intrigue the news media. tsa does have more than 3,000 management personnel designated as checkpoint supervisors present at most checkpoints in the nation's largest airports. these personnel should be authorized to intervene in special situations involving unnecessary scrutiny of children and elderly travel, and elderly travelers and to pass them through. in a recent appearance before
this subcommittee, administrator pistole acknowledged this approach had merit and noted the agency is moving to provide the necessary training to the 3,000 checkpoint supervisors. third, currency. by having the most advanced security technology capability possible at all times, having the most advanced security technology to help insure the agency stays ahead of the terrorist threat will require the congress to provide tsa with innovative financing authority and to facilitate the use of an independent third-party testing to more effectively and cost efficiently bring technologies to use by the agency. the subcommittee should give due consideration to the concept of a voluntary, multibillion dollar tax credit bond program under which airports would issue debt to pay for security equipment and the necessary infrastructure to support tsa operations. i would suggest that this is spending that is not avoidable, and such an approach may support efficiency and more common sense planning.
it is also private sector dollars that would be leveraged by federal action. for instance, tsa is, for instance, tsa is required by atsa to screen checked baggage using advanced x-ray technology. across the system, this equipment is now headed toward the end of its useful life and will soon have to be replaced. despite best efforts, that will be a budget buster if it all needs replaced within the short time frame which could easily happen. the subcommittee has heard testimony about tsa's risk-based screening program. rbs is supported by new and emerging technology. the full benefits of rbs will not be realized swiftly as everyone might like if tsa is left to advocate year-over-year for budget resources to support it. once again, i greatly appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts about future changes that will support tsa becoming widely known for consistency,
credibility and currency. i'd be please today answer any questions. i'd be pleased to answer any questions. >> thank you, mr. blank. which equipment did you talk about being at the end of its life expectancy? >> the baggage screening equipment and explosive detection systems. >> now, i know that a couple of major airports i've recently toured, they're in the process of replacing that now. are you saying that there's a problem across the spectrum of airports? >> it is not across the spectrum. some of the largest airports are being taken care of. tsa is not completely without a plan. but when we look at 450 airports -- >> okay. >> we don't even have eds in all 450 airports today. >> okay. you shook me up there for a minute. [laughter] all right. we have saved the best for last. no pressure. our final witness is ms. colby alonso and will be testifying on behalf of the association of flight attendants, communication
workers of america. the faa represents nearly 60,000 flight attencabots employed by 21 different airlines. it's the world's largest flight attendant union. she also has 16 years of experience as a flight attendant. in may ms. alonso was working on u.s. airway's flight 787 from paris to charlotte when she respond today a woman's claim she had a device implanted inside her. thankfully, the claim turned out to be false. the chair now recognizes ms. alonso to summarize her opening statement. >> thank you, chairman rogers, for allowing me to speak regarding the future of transportation security. as you said, i am a member of the association of flight attendants which represents 21 different airlines, and it's the world's largest flight attendant union. as professionals, flight attendants are required to be onboard commercial aircraft to fight fires, provide first aid, and to command evacuations when necessary. our responsibilities for
insuring the security of passengers on the aircraft and protecting the flight deck and cabin from an attack are vast and make us an integral part of security. i take pride in my role. i appreciate the opportunity to recount my experience from may 22, 2012, as a front line first responder. on that day i was working as the french translator on us airways flight 787 from paris to charlotte, north carolina. a female passenger called me to my seat and handed me a note written in the french for the captain. since the captain did not speak french, i asked the passenger if i could read it. i reconfirmed my understanding of the note was correct, i asked her if she thought the device would solely harm her or if it could possibly harm others or the aircraft. she didn't know and could not confirm it wouldn't. i proceeded to the forward galley with the note, her boarding pass and passport. i briefly explained the situation to the service direct
then entered the cockpit. the captain suggested i make an announcement seeking medical assistance, it took two announcements before any doctors responded. we escorted the female passenger to the back galley and requested her permission for the doctors to examine her. there was nothing visible or tangible to indicate she posed any threat. i relayed this information to the captain. it was decided that out of caution we would divert to bangor, maine. once on the ground, federal officers came aboard and removed the passenger after which the captain explained the real circumstances of our diversion to the passengers. the fbi then came on and took my statement, the original note and my rough translation. our flight eventually continued on to charlotte, fortunately, the threat was addressed the best we could given our limited resources in the operational environment. i am required to attend recurrent training at my airline yearly in order to remain
qualified. this training includes a security module that gave me a foundation to respond to the threat i encountered that day, but i also believe there are many improvements that should be made in order to be better prepared in the future. when i was hired, my initial security training was based on a 970s hijacking scenario of a dissident who wanted to go to cuba. the old strategy emphasized a negotiated resolution. today's security training requirements known as common strategy ii were created after the events of 2001 to respond to the ever-present aggressive threat defensively. it has been more than ten years since the change to common strategy ii. it is time to review flight attendant security training, otherwise we run the risk of again stagnating our approach to security training as we did in the years prior to 9/11. flight attencabot self-defense training is essential to a counterterrorism strategy. the tsa offers a voluntary one-day crew member self-defense training course.
i took the course on a day off in carr rot at my own time and expense. afa has long called for making this training mandatory. flight attendants are not asking to become martial arts experts, but our level of preparedness is inkent. additionally, afa has also pressed for alternative screening for flight attendants. i am subject to the same level of screening and background checks as pilots with the exception of those pilots participating in the ffdo program. our advocacy on alternative screening methods is all the more important as tsa moves to implement risk-based passenger screening. alternative screening initiatives for frequent travelers as well as for active duty service members should not be further expanded while the inclusion of flight attendants still has no concrete dates or milestones set. lastly, regarding flight 787, the only way for me to relay information from the doctors accurately was through entering
the flight deck and using the pilot headset. afa supports the development of discreet, hands-free wireless systems allowing crew members under emergency threat conditions the ability to communicate from anywhere in the aircraft at anytime under any circumstance. afa recommends a robust, layered security approach that includes intensive self-defense modules and crew member security training, a risk-based approach to security screening that incorporates flight attendant into known crew member and the institution of discreet portable wireless communication devices for improved and safer communications. chairman rogers and ranking member jackson-lee, thank you for allowing me to talk about being the last line of defense in the aircraft cabin. thank you. >> thank you for that, for your service. i'll start with my set of questions for the first five minutes. i have to admit, i'm impressed
by the broad array of perspectives that we've seen in your opening statements and your suggestions and observations. i find it intriguing. i think everybody's pretty much acknowledged that tsa's got at a minimum some perception problems, and more accurately, some organizational problems that need to be addressed. if you're familiar with what we've been doing recently, in a recent hearing i talked about -- as did our witnesses -- about the bloated size that we're starting to see in tsa and how that's hint -- hindering its public image. one of the things that i've heard consistently from the public is their complaint about the large number of people who seem to be not doing anything, and along with their frustrations about the process that they're having to go through for security. and in my last testimony -- and there's reason for this. over my tenure as chairman of
this committee, it's been my assessment that we've got about one-third of the tsa that could be reduced as far as personnel size and still do the job as efficiently than current. i know there's nothing magic about that, but i would like to frame the question this way. would you agree that the tsa is bloated in its personnel structure or size, whether that bloat is 10% too many or 40%, somewhere within that spectrum would you agree that there's excess that we can afford to trim as a part of our effort to reform and reorganize the tsa? and that is a yes or no question. start with dr. poole. i'm sorry? >> i'm sorry. i do agree. just two basic points about that, if i could.
>> well, i want to come back to that. i will, i promise. mr. poole? >> i agree as far as the screen force is concerned. >> i agree. mr. nelson, ozzie. >> no. >> ms. alonso? >> i don't have the expertise to answer that question. >> okay. mr. bloom, i want to hear your two points. >> well, first of all, there's nothing magical, from a terrorist perspective, you're trained to symbolically communicate something through killing people, damaging things or threatening to. and whether you use an airport, an aircraft, another transportation modality or whatever, the -- >> well, i'm going to go through that with you in a few minutes on my next series of questions. i would ask you this, then, and i would ask you to keep your response to about ten seconds or so because my time's going to
run out. if you were king for a day, and i've heard what mr. nelson and mr. blank have already said, what's the one thing you would change immediately about tsa? ten seconds. >> i would take maybe 20-30% of the resources and put it into intelligence collection analysis and then use that to apprehend and detain and neutralize more adversaries of the u.s. government. >> excellent. mr. poole? >> i would devolve screening responsibility to the airport level and remove tsa from delivering service as as opposed to regulating. >> excellent. mr. nelson? >> make a term limit for the administrator five or ten years. >> that's a good idea. mr. blank, i think, agrees with you on that. >> i do agree, and my change would be to empower those checkpoint supervisors to get rid of the mistakes at the checkpoint as much as possible. >> ms. alonso? oh, i'm sorry, go back to mr. blank. she wanted to hear what you said again? >> in my testimony, i suggested that the checkpoint supervisor, 3,000 personnel at major checkpoints, be empowered to
intervene in the screening process as necessary to avoid some of the problems of treatment of elderly, young people and other special populations. >> yes. and we've had that from previous witnesses in previous hearings. ms. alonso? >> i would immediately add the flight attendant complement to the known crew member program in order to expedite clearance through security. >> great. mr. poole, this'll be my last question before my time expires. you made an observation that you just now restated again about in your opening statement you said you would like to see tsa approve a group or pool -- no pun intended -- of contractors who could do the private screening, that once they were approved, the anticipates on -- airports on their own could contract with anybody that was in that group of people. tell me more about how that would work. >> the way that would work would be like all the other competitive contracting that's out there at federal, state and local level. the direct party involved would choose among the prequalified set of suppliers -- >> would the contract amount or set of parameters be included in
that preapproved deal? >> depends how much respondent is devolved. but ideally, yes. if it was a true performance contracting, then the companies would submit proposals that might differ in price, differ in the procedures that they would use. they would have to use tsa-approved equipment, technology. but they could put it together in possibly different ways. they might also use the people in somewhat different ways. >> my time is expired, but i want to come back to that, i want to pick that topic back up. chair now recognizes the ranking member for her opening set of questions. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. again, ms. alonso, let me thank you for your service. you're aware of the legislation that i've had, i hope, trying to increase the training, security training of flight attendants? >> yes, ma'am. >> do you all support that? >> yes, we do. >> legislation that would make it a requirement, because i want to thank you, and i should thank all the flight attendants who have voluntarily gone to
training. but what you're suggesting is we need to ramp up the training for first responders, flight attendants, is that not correct? >> that is correct. >> and would it be more helpful if it was required training and periodical training that the airlines would provide? >> absolutely. and the reason there is a need for it is because we have to develop cognitive recognition of terrorist acts based on previous attempts. and the current counterterrorism intelligence is not reinforced enough to maintain a basic level that is consistent across the board for flight attendants to address these issues. >> i think it is very important to make note of your intervention even though, um, you've already reported it by your statement. but what is important is that we are aware that this was a dangerous commentary that this particular passenger was saying. it generated great possibilities of danger, did it not? >> yes, ma'am. >> and one could not rely upon
whether there was a mental health issue. you had to take it seriously, and you did, is that correct? >> that is correct. >> mr. nelson, thank you. it looks as if you answered that, the tsa is not too many. um, i appreciate what mr. blank said about giving supervisors authority to intervene. as i indicated, i welcome corrective measures. tell me, mr. nelson, how you would handle the present population of tsos in terms of a futuristic view of training, to, um, duty assignment so that we have a full complement of individuals on the front line securing the homeland. >> thank you, ranking member, for that question. my perspective on saying no is coming from a military background of trusting the person on the ground, and that's administrator pistole who i
respect. and if he says we need this many agents and screening officers, then i agree with that assessment. then what it becomes is your question, how do you train them appropriately and get them to interact with the public in what we have created, a zero-failure construct. after 9/11 there were not a bunch of, you know, dhs/homeland security officials sitting on the sideline. we've only been creating that work for the for about ten years now, and we have to continue to do that. and homeland security training is very different than intelligence training, very different than dod training. so even though these individuals may be from military or law enforcement backgrounds, that doesn't make them necessarily a great fit for tsa. so we need to expand this program as far as training's concerned, we need to have rotations and promote by doing rotation assignments and things of that nature and being creative about how we manage our personnel. and i think that they're move anything that direction, but that's something that's going to take an investment. anytime you take someone off the front line, they're not doing
their job, and that's an investment we're going to have to make if we want to make certain the tso's the entity we want it to be. >> and, mr. nelson, professional development, developing a team that is professionally trained using their previous experience, but is professionally geared to the service of their responsibility which in some instances is aviation. i've been arguing for using these officers on our mass transit. that's, obviously, more difficult. but it certainly is important. is that what you're saying today, developing that professional team that fits into the matrix that is needed to secure the homeland? >> absolutely. again, you know, you look at the homeland security intelligence model as well. just because it works at the cia or dod for intelligence doesn't mean it works at dhs. it's a very specific requirement. it requires specific background and training. so leverage the skills that they already have whether it be law enforcement, aviation or military, but that training needs to be augmented for the dhs and the tsa's specific
requirements, absolutely. >> dr. bloom, why would -- or, mr. bloom, why would you quarrel with what i think are insightful, instructive comments by mr. nelson? one, i agree with the idea of term limiting the administrator. i think ten years, i think five years would be completely undoable. but what evidence do you have that it is too large other than to say that we need to make it more efficient and more professionally trained? >> well, by no means would i want to quarrel. but based on the public discussion we're having, in my opinion, um, from a terrorist point of view with surveillance, reconnaissance, being able to find out the aspects of technology being used by transportation security administration personnel, by finding out the typical security procedures either deployed and employed it's only a matter of time before these can either be
exploited or folks can go around them. i don't think terror is are impressed by organizational chats, by bureaucracies, by bureaucratic cultures. i think we have by studying terrorism in the last 10, 20, 30 years, they take what's in front of them. anything that's a security procedure can be exploited or gone around. whether it's technology or human -- >> my time has run, mr. bloom. i thank you for that because you've helped clarify for me your comment which i think ties closely into me -- [laughter] my perspective and mr. nelson and even ms. alonso which is that we must constantly alter the thinking, training and strategy, strategic strategy. because terrorists are constantly altering. that has nothing to do with size of the organization, which i believe we should adhere to the administrator in essence, the general. but it does adhere to we have to get more smith candidated in this not having smarts and --
charts and just having bureaucracy and leveraged individuals who have supervise ever titles. but we have to focus on making this an effective machine against the changing world of terrorism. on that we have no disagreement, but i don't think we can call that a need for lessening the total population of those who are in the service. we need to use them in a more effective manner. so i thank you for your instructive testimony today, and i yield back, mr. chairman. >> i thank the gentlelady. chair now recognizes mr. turner from new york for any questions he may have. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i'm not sure, was it you, mr. bloom, who talked about the baggage equipment screening, its life cycle is coming near an end? >> that was me, sir. >> oh, i'm sorry. and if we had to replace all of this, i guess most of this was done in, '02? >> december 31, 2002, was the
statutory deadline for installing it in all commercial airports. >> okay. and, um, just because of the arcane way we bookkeep here, we expense the entire item on the year that it's replaced. how big a number would this be? >> i don't have a precise number, but it would certainly be in the many billions of dollars. >> all right. and is there a mechanism for some flexibility in this, going to third party leasing over the life cycle of the equipment, or -- >> during my tenure at tsa and subsequently in discussions with equipment manufacturers, i've never seen anything, nor am i aware that the private sector's seen a model that would say leasing makes sense. i advocated for bonding authority to airports, that it would make more sense to do that
on an airport-by-airport basis. >> but is there, you run into government regulations or just bureaucratic stonewall? >> what it is very difficult for an agency to effectively advocate to the congress for capital expenditure on equipment. they're more effective generally in advocating for expanded personnel, to be candid. [laughter] >> true. >> and usually the capital expenditures get put off until there's a real emergency, and then they will come up to capitol hill and say we have no choice but to do this. ask what -- and what i'm advocating for is a more efficient, common sense approach to how we invest our capital dollars. >> all right. but in view of the size of the one-year expenditure, and they're all terminating at about the same time, is there really a practical way to do this outside
of third party leasing? >> well, let me clarify. the tsa does have a plan and is executing a plan bit by bit, year-over-year. what i'm questioning is are they going to get there fast enough under their current plan, or are we going to have equipment that is out there and that is just not usable before the rate of replacement catches up with the need? >> thank you. i yield back. >> i thank the gentleman. chair now recognizes my friend and colleague from minnesota, mr. kovak, for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chair. thank you for your panel. appreciate that you flew the 860, huh? you're a jsoc? >> i was. >> yeah. i was at sact. i'm old. [laughter] mr. poole, you mentioned that the tsa has a built-in conflict
of interesting. that was a rather interesting. by establishing policies and trying to implement those policies because of self-regulation being inherently problematic. you then talk about how the tsa isn't as rigorous in dealing with its own performance problems as those that it actually does regulate. it's kind of like the fox guarding the henhouse, if you pardon the expression. your proposal is to shift the performance contracting model. can you give me an example of what it would like like as a contractor to implement them? >> well, one would certainly be the kinds of measures that are used now when red teams go in and try to get material past the screening, things that are prohibited. so the rate of successful interception of bogus material or dangerous material. another would be cost effectiveness measures, productivity, the number of passengers screened per hour in accordance with standards. and that kind of measure i don't see anywhere being used today.
that's the kind of measure that the house fni -- tni committee when they compared san francisco with the tsa screening at lax and found an enormous difference in natural productivity that suggests that the tsa staff are not being used anywhere near as efficiently as the contractors are able to do. so that would be another useful measure. >> right now tsa has an $8 million budget. how much savings do you see occurring? >> i think you could probably save 20, 25%. given that screening is about five billion of the eight billion, you could probably save 20% at least of tsa's overall total budget from removing that, going to the performance be contracting. >> and you would have a pretty large savings associated with that and, of course, we're also concerned about quality. you would not see any hits in quality whatsoever?
>> well, the point is that the quality control would be built in through the threat of losing contracts. i mean, you can't guarantee that every contractor, every contract is going to be carried out to the highest level that you would want. but you have the ability to quickly and decisively replace a failing contractor with another one from the prequalified list, so it builds in a kind of control mechanism that lets you get rid of bad apples should some arise fairly quickly. >> which kind of dovetails on you also mentioned reforms in the security partnership program moving away from the tsa's current practice of spelling out please yours, technology and compensation. what changes do you anticipate producing in the current ssp airports? spp, excuse me. >> right. i did not try to spell all that out. and i think what we want to do is encourag innovation and get away from the model that there's only one best way. i don't know a better way to do
passenger screening, but, you know, given that i support the risk-based approach that tsa's moving toward. but if you give contractors outcome measures and stress more competition, we may find some methods that are more than combined people and technology in ways that lead to a more productive system. and that's, we just want a system that leads to that. >> what do you think holds airports back from joining the spp? >> you know, this is only speculation, but i think we've created a kind of a difficult situation because tsa is their regular rater of everything -- regulator of everything. they're, in effect, if they want to join spp, they're having to basically tick the tsa out -- kick the tsa out, and that's a difficult thing for a very visible airport to do. it creates potential for a not very good relationship in the subsequent years. so we mostly see small airports doing this so far. >> so what do you think would be an incentive to get airports into the spp program? >> i think if the airports themselves had a bigger role in
it, if they were able to select their own contractor, for example, and manage the relationship, i think a lot more of them would be willing to take that course because they would see it as they would have more to gain by developing that relationship rather than having tsa assign someone to them. >> yeah, okay. mr. nelson, when did you get your wings? >> august of 1990. >> '90? okay, a little after me. my time's expired. i have more questions, but i'll yield back to the chair. >> i khan the gentleman. chairman recognizes the ranking member. >> thank you for your kindness. let me pose some very quick questions at the chairman's courtesy. ms. alonso, i think you're familiar with the known crew member program operated by tsa which is receiving high praises by pilots and industry as a good step forward in implementing a risk-based screening process at all checkpoints. this allows pilot toss obtain expedited procedures. can you elaborate why flight
atten adapt -- attendants or crew members could also benefit from the program and whether it should be extended to them, and could this be accomplished without compromising security? and then what protections can be integrated in the system in order to insure that only working croup members in good standing can use the system? >> yes. thank you, member jackson-lee. we are under the same security screening and ten-year background check and scrutiny as the pilots. we also have access to the cockpit and sometimes are required to be in the cockpit, and we are the last line of defense on the aircraft. for those reasons alone, we feel it should not be a breach of security for us to have the same clearance to go through another alternative screening process. as far as protections go, it's up to the airlines to keep the database current with up-to-date data and employee records and to require employees that are terminated or separated, for instance, on leave, etc., to return their ids in a timely
manner, and that is mandated by law. >> just a quick question. in the last faa bill, it seems the airlines are required to give you training on serving alcoholic beverages. do you think that that required training suggests that the idea of securing the airline, the idea of being the fist responders in the cabin -- the first responders in the cabin should also be required training? >> absolutely. we do feel that currently having only a voluntary crew member self-defense training added to our yearly additional recurrent train chg the faa requires is not sufficient. five to thirty minutes is what's currently in place for flight attendants to be prepared for security breaches. it's developed and provided by the carriers themselves, and it just doesn't allow us to be prepared at the level that we should be. >> well, let me just say
watching you do your work and seeing the doors of the cockpit opened and seeing the only ones being able to go while we're in flight as flight attendants, i can assure you that i believe that you are warranted in this security and warranted in this training. mr. chairman, i'm just going to ask to put on the record that i hope we can work together on a cabin, in-cabin security hearing. ms. alonso's experience evidences the need of that, so i look forward to working with you on that, mr. chairman. i have one more quick question. mr. poole, in your testimony you cite to a "usa today" investigation in 2007 that filed screeners in lax missed three times as many bomb materials as did privately-contracted screeners at san francisco. i am sure you're aware that a 2006 dhs office of the inspector general reported that aviation securities at san francisco international airport compromised oig security testing between august 2003 and august 2004. are you at all concerned that a private company seeking to maximize profits and retain a
contract may work to hide deficiencies such as officials did within two years after their contract, and then, of course, is it not correct for many of us who believe that the federal government who has a pure perspective, their service is to the american people, not to their pocketbooks would, in essence, and to the american people's pocketbooks to be efficient. but to compromise security is a very dangerous perspective. so why are you pushing complete privatization of tsa? >> well, it's not complete privatization, ms. jackson lee. what i'm arguing for is performance contracting with strong incentives, but also sanctions for poor performance. and the threat of having contracts revoked is a very powerful threat. a business model can't really survive if you stand a good chance of losing the very thing that brings in revenue. so that's the model. it's not total privatization in
if any sense. the tsa would still be the regulator, and it may be that the need for sanctions should be stronger in the event of contractor malperformance. >> let me just say those airports that have private contractors, i work harmoniously with them and, certainly, those are in place. but an expansion of the program, i think, is questionable even to the extent of having sanctions. but i appreciate your clarification. i think all of us collectively at this hearing, mr. chairman, are committed to securing the homeland and making tsa the most effective agency that it can be along with our flight crew, both our pilots and our flight attendants who are on the front lines of any airplane that is traveling and traveling both domestically and internationally. let me thank you, mr. chairman, and i yield back. >> i thank the gentlelady. chair now recognizes himself for a second series of questions. mr. poole, i was talking to you earlier about how this group of approved contractors could function, and you talked about
bidding based on size of airport or whatever. is there a, is there another example of that outside -- obviously, there's not one in tsa. we think it should be there. but is there one that you're trying to model after? is there another department that does something like that? >> well, actually, in the airport screening area itself canada is 100% private sector screening. there are 12 -- last i checked, there were 12 certified companies in canada -- >> and the government certifies them. >> in fact, it's an agency which is a thing they create inside canada when we created tsa following nerve. and catsa certifies the company that meet its standards. >> do they then go in and supervise them at the airport? >> take. >> you know, one of the things we had in previous hearings from the private sector was that at the airport we already have private contractors. the number of tsa personnel supervising is exorbitant.
i mean, like 100 or more tsa people for a contractor. do y'all see that, mr. lank? have you seen that in any instances? or heard any complaints or criticisms about that? >> well, first of all, let me say that many of the things that we're talking about here i believe, and i think tsa would support, would require changes in atsa in order to be able to do. >> right. >> under, from a lel perspective. but in terms of supervisors, i have heard that criticism, but i'm not aware of its accuracy, that we have a -- >> okay. mr. poole, i see you nodding affirmatively. >> i wanted to say that part of the problem is that the way tsa runs spp, it's tsa that is the contract manager, and the relationship is between tsa and the private company. in the model i'm suggesting, the airport would select, negotiate
the contract and manage the relationship. tsa would regulation the overall airport security as it -- >> so tsa wouldn't have personnel on the ground supervising? >> it wouldn't have the same extent of direct supervision of the contractor. it would be supervising as part of its overall surveillance of the airport. >> is there any other country you can think of that does that? >> well, almost all of the major european airports. policy in europe varies somewhat from country to country, but i haven't been able to find any european country, any e.u. member that has a come combinatf regulation and screening provision in the same national government entity. >> good. >> either the airport that does it or private contractors reporting to the airport. >> great. mr. nelson and mr. blank, both of you brought up in your opening statement a concept that, frankly, i'm embarrassed to say i hadn't thought of before, that's term limits for the administrator. i think that's very appealing, and as you heard from the ranking member, she finds it very appealing as well.
y'all mentioned the fbi director as an example. i'd like to know if there's anybody else, is there another department where this works like the fbi that comes to the top of your head? >> i mentioned, i believe, in my statement that the faa administrator is also a five-year term. >> okay. let me ask this, and this goes to mr. nelson. you made the point that the reason you answered no when i talked about the bloat of the bureaucracy was that administrator pistole thinks that's what we need, and you support him. now, i have great respect for administrator pistole. i think he's an extremely competent fella and doing the best he can under the circumstances. let me ask you this way. mr. pistole does not have a definite term. he works at the pleasure of the president and under the supervision of the secretary. if administrator pistole had a ten-year term limit or eight years or whatever and
mr. pistole then said we need 70% of what we got right now, and i can do just fine, and i can take that other money and redirect it in some areas that are more helpful as far as threat-based information, would you then think that was what -- whatever that administrator felt like would happen would be what you still support? >> mr. chairman, i think -- i would like to see an evolution towards a more risk-based security model. >> well, i'm talking about the personnel. see, here's my concern. the administrator at present serves at the pleasure of the president. this president has a very close relationship with organized labor. they don't want to see federal employees be reduced. so even if the administrator felt like we had 20 or 30 or 40% too many employees, he can't let 'em go because when he starts letting 'em go, the president's going to call him up and go, no, we're not going to go there. see my point?
i like the idea that y'all have made that if they were, had a term, the politics would get out of it. and it could be the other way around. you could have a republican president, and there was something that the republican president didn't like. i like the idea of somebody who's competent and capable having the latitude to make those kind of managerial decisions without the risk of getting a phone call from the white house saying you have irritated a group or constituency of mine that i don't want irritated. see my point? that's one of the things i find appealing about that. plus, trying to attract competent and quality people who aren't going to be worried about getting a phone call that they're gone. so it's an interesting concept. i was just told that congressman wolf has a bill to try to do something like that. it's got great potential. mr. cravaack, do you have any more questions? >> actually, mr. chair, you asked them. >> all right. well, then i want to keep going. you're all mine.
[laughter] mr. blank, tell me what your thoughts are -- let me tell you one of my concerns about this as i was processing this concept. unlike the fbi which the president appoints, this administrator has to work under the secretary of homeland security. how would you deal with that, i mean, do you foresee any conflicts that may occur if the secretary can't fire the administrator because of term limits? >> i think, certainly, that that could come up. but i would start by saying that may be a good thing if we have that kind of independence and that kind of security in somebody that's going to take on a responsibility to our national security on this particular level. i think that's one of the, one of the valuable things relative to an fbi director who can't be shoved aside with a sharp elbow by an attorney general.
>> okay. mr. nelson, again, i want to point to our board. can you see those? if you'll look at the red line, that is the personnel levels that we have in tsa. the blue graph or lines going up and down is the number of travelers that we've had. you'll see the big dip. and now i we're starting to see a -- now we're starting to see a little tick back up. but the number of full-time employees that we've got working is dramatically higher than the level of flight activity that we have. do you, do you have a problem with that? i hate to pick on you, but you're the only one that said no. [laughter] >> mr. chairman, it's your prerogative, please, pick on me. [laughter] no, it's a fair point. you know, in my government career we saw this with the pilots in 19 t 3 and in the military in the '93 and '95
because we had a peace dividend, and we cut all the personnel. and then five or six years later we were trying to make up for the cuts we made in '93 and '95. we did the same thing with intelligence officers prior to 9/11. we cut a lot of the case officers, and then all of a sudden we needed them and decided the cia had half the work force come onboard since 9/11. so i'm always very cautious when we use personnel cuts alone as a solution to a budget problem or a solution to a security model problem. um, i'm all for revamping how tsa operates if we make alternate changes such as investing more in science and technology, investing more in risk-based security which requires us to invest more in intelligence and information-sharing. you can't have a successful model, reduced number of physical screeners without -- >> right. see, and that goes to what mr. bloom was offering in his opening statement earlier, that he wants to see less emphasis on technology and more on
intelligence gathering, human-based as is sets which i agree with. -- assets which i agree with. what i want to emphasize is with that number, it's hard for us as policymakers to make the case for spending money on those assets because people think we're wasting what we're giving out. the fact is in our current environment we're not getting any more money in the department of homeland security. i think the department of homeland security and the department of defense are, because of the dangerous world that we live, are not going to be as affected by cuts as other departments may be. because we've got to be safe and secure. but the days of numberses going up are over. having said that, we've got to find a way to take the number we've got, which is roughly $35 billion, and reshuffle it so that it's more effective. and what i contend is that we can't justify that number particularly when people are going to the airports with their
terrible perspective or perp senses of tsa -- or perceptions of tsa and expect us to spend more money on intelligence-gathering assets. we can't keep treating grand ma like she's from a middle eastern country like yemen. so i want to see that shift, and that's why i keep emphasizing in these hearings, we can't keep doing that if we want to be able to do what you suggest and that is move to a more threat-based infrastructure and process than we have now. the fact is the public is outraged with tsa. trust me, as chairman of this committee, i hear it daily. it doesn't matter if i'm in walmart or sunday school, people hate the tsa. and we've got to do something about that because we need this system. we've got to have a system, if not this one, something like it to protect us because it's still a very dangerous world. i get the briefings as do the other mens of this committee. -- members of this committee.
we've got to be smarter and leaner in the ways we do things, which brings me back to the threat-based approach. mr. bloom, you talked about a shift away from technology to more intelligence-gathering, smart systems. tell me more about what you mean by that. what would you like to see specifically? >> thank you. a couple of things. going back quickly to a comment made by ranking member jackson lee about the current size of and whether it should be reduced or not, i believe no one has made a coherent rationale for how that size correlates with the risk and what those folks are supposed to be doing against whatever the risk might be. and until we have answers to those questions, staying with the resources we have right now is really an undefendable position. that has to be worked. also because just about everyone here believes a risk approach is the way to go, well, that means you have to have an understanding of threat and vulnerability. the threat is basically
intelligence-based. how are you going to figure out what the threat might be? it changes from moment by moment, and that's why both tech and human, technical intelligence means and human intelligence means, collecting the information, analyzing it, transmitting it in a secure and response bive fashion to all the people who are responsible for our layers of security for aviation, for other transportation modalities, that whole system is really crucial. and once that is optimal or close to it, that's when we know exactly how much we can reduce given the economic climate we're in and the rest of it. >> okay. thank you very much. mr. cravaack has a question. >> i was just going to ask you to yield for a second. in this very committee room, didn't secretary napolitano actually come out and say that we were going to a risk-based type of, type of -- >> she has and administrator pistole has -- >> they took it out there, but
wouldn't that be the exact opposite of what's happening here in regards to personnel, and was she willing to not fund last line of defense measures using risk-based analysis? so i just wanted to bring that up. >> well, i mean, the -- when we had administerrer pistole here about a month ago, that was one of my questions is, you heard me talk about it in my opening statement. we've got to go a lot faster and broader, but that kind of program is what we've got to do where we're taking known travelers who travel every week, we know more about them than they think we know, and we know they're not a threat, move them out of the line. and there's things we can do with other people that are intention based -- intelligence based that we can get them away from being treated like they're a fundamentalist terrorist, islamic fundamentalist. so, no, we're not getting the kind of movement that backs up that rhetoric. let me ask this. and by the way, mr. blank, you
made a great observation earlier about the supervisors being given more discretion. we've been after them to do that. that's another example of what we're frustrated about, is these, this is not rocket science. they've been, they've had this pointed out. they say we're going to do it just like what mr. cravaack was just talking about. they say they're going to do it, but it's just not happening. what can you think of would woua good way for this committee to put some action behind that rhetoric on that particular issue with supervisors? >> on the chart that you had up, first of all, if i can, i just want to address the personnel levels. on the chart that you had up -- >> put that back up, please. >> every one of the red xs is the result of a formula that tsa has devised. in other words, they take inputs. in the early going we had a lousy formula. we hired 65,000 people. we had to lay off nearly 20,000 people. >> uh-huh. >> they revised the formula, and when you see a number of full-time equivalents, and i
think what i'm suggesting is you ought to ask what are in the elements of that formula. i has things like time to screen people. you should ask where are the promised efficiencies from technology. we've been promised that for years and years, that that was going to drive down ftes. doesn't seem to have materialized. you're absolutely right, less flights should mean less screeners. the airports have a role in that in terms of physical infrastructure. so there are all these inputs that i think the tsa should have to come and justify to you because it is the result of not a human judgment, it's the result of a formula that has them moving toward a particular, a particular staffing level. i think in terms of the supervisors i believe that administrator pistole testified he didn't have the money to do the training. my own feeling is that money is not the problem at tsa, and it should be a relatively simple
matter, in my view, to reprogram existing funds toward doing the training for the supervisors in order to have of them be utilized as we suggested and discussed here. >> great. let me ask this, and i'll throw this out to whoever wants to answer it. everybody talked about appreciating a good initiative, it's going too slow. we know now that very frequent travelers are the people that are pretty into that. who else should be included? who would you go to the next couple of categories of people? mr. poole? >> you could start with everyone who holds a secret or higher clearance. why on earth these people are handling sensitive defense material -- >> agreed. >> why should they go through the third degree at the airport? >> that's a great idea. who else? ms. alonso? >> again, i would go back to my statement previous that flight attendants do go through the same background checks back ten years and security screening as pilots.
i'm sure that everyone here has experienced a delay where we have had to cut ahead of passengers in line -- >> oh, yeah. >> and not only -- >> happened yesterday. i was standing in line at the atlanta airport. >> we apologize. >> didn't bother me, but oh people who are not regular travelers were probably upset about it. >> when i have to put my items on the belt and i have to make sure that no one around them, you know, is doing anything to my bags, it's very difficult for me to maintain vigilance on all ends at all times based upon the security procedures that are set up in place. i mean, i can stand there for a certain amount of time, then they move me along -- >> so you're not advocating not going through any screening -- >> not at all. we're not add slow advocate -- advocating superseding screening, we're just asking to use the alternative process that the pilots use at this time. >> okay. those are two great examples. mr. nelson. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
i would just start by allowing the frequent flyers to have transferable interoperability so that if i'm a frequent flyer on delta and not united, i fly on united, i get the same screening. that's not happening right now. >> that's another great idea. mr. bloom, dr. bloom. >> i'd just like to point out in a very respectful way that although all these suggestions are good, they bear nothing on the terrorist threat or make the country any safer in a way. the suggestions dealing with the side effects of a very imperfect medication. and what we should be looking at instead while we try to come up with a better medication is dealing with the disease, and that's where the intention activity -- >> and i agree. what i'm after is a smarter way of using our resources so that we're leaner for public perception purposes and smarter which gets to your point. so the more of these people we can get out of the line, the
easier it is for us to look thoroughly at who's left. is in the first time ever to fly? did they buy a one-way ticket? did they pay cash? all the things we want to look for, it's more manageable if we have a smaller group. so that's why i want to get -- supreme court justices have no business going through -- maybe after the ruling two weeks ago -- [laughter] but they have no business going through that. p you've got donald rumsfeld getting patted down at the airport. henry kissinger. you know, that's mind numbing that that kind of stuff's happening. yes, sir. >> just to briefly follow up, there was a national academy of sciences study done a few years ago which recommended a partial random, partial -- i'll use the term profiling even though it's politically loaded, but combination of partial and random with the partial total of the public as the most cautious
approach. >> there's a host of things we can do from the intention, threat-based perspective on that. and i would point out for the people in the audience who don't know, even if you're in the precheck category which i am when i fly on delta which goes back to your point, there's a reason we do that with other a airports as well, because i don't get that on u.s. air -- no offense, ms. alone so -- but there's no reason why that shouldn't be the case no matter which airline you're flying. but there's a lot of other things that we can do to get these people out of the line, and that's what i want to emphasize because i want us to be a much smarter, much more threat-based organization that has the public's confidence. because right now we don't, and that's a real concern to me as a policymaker that the public does not have confidence in the tsa. so y'all have been very good panel, very thought provoking, great ideas, and i appreciate your time, preparing your
testimony and for your attendance here today. and with that, this hearing is adjourned. [inaudible conversations] >> from this house subcommittee, more live coverage. the senate is in session, coming back after weekly party meetings for more debate on a one-year payroll tax credit. a vote on whether to move forward with that bill is expected in about five minutes from now.
vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. the clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture. the clerk: we, the undersigned senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule 22 of the standing rules of the senate, hereby move to bring to a close, the debate on the motion to proceed to calendar number 41, s. 2237, the small business jobs and tax relief act. signed by 16 senators. the presiding officer: by unanimous consent, the mandatory quorum call has been waived. the question is: is it the sense of the senate that debate on the motion to proceed to s. 2237, a bill to provide a temporary income tax credit for increased payroll and extend bonus depreciation for an additional year and for other purposes, shall be brought to a close. the yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule. the clerk will call the roll. vote: vote:vote: vote
three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn having voted in the affirmative, the motion is agreed to. mr. hatch: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. hatch: i ask unanimous consent that steve coffer of the finance committee staff be given privileges to the floor for the duration of the 112th congress. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. hatch: mr. president, today we begin debate on a bill pw*eul called the small business jobs and tax relief act. there are positive elements to this legislation but i remain amazed the democratic majority has decided to pursue this bill to support small businesses when looming tax increases threaten to crush these very same small businesses. rather than address the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax relief, which is denying certainty to small small busines and holding back hiring and economic development, we are discussing this legislation. the president and his allies who are pursuing this legislation are patting themselves on the
back for supporting small business, but puffing their chest as the saviors of america's job creators while doing nothing to address the coming fiscal cliff is like a person asking for the keys to the city after throwing the water balloon at a house fire. our small businesses and our economy face an existential threat with the coming tax hikes. not only have senate democrats done nothing to bring some certainty to this situation, but president obama actively undermined these businesses with his white house campaign event yesterday during which he expressed his commitment to raising taxes on these small businesses. so as we debate this bill, we need to keep that backdrop in mind. as the president proposes with this bill to give with one hand to small businesses, with the other hand he is prepared to sock those same people in the jaw. small business is just one tpas seft our economy that will be hit with the largest tax increase in history if congress
and the president fail to act before january 1, 2013. but given that small businesses are the engine of job creation in our economy, the impact of these tax increases will reach far and wide, undermining economic growth and hampering innovation and job creation. taxpayers are on the edge of a fiscal cliff, yet instead of leading them to safety, the president's campaign is telling us to march forward. the consequences will crush american taxpayers. in february "the washington post" referred to this $4.5 trillion tax hike as tax-mageddon. ben bernanke described it as a massive fiscal cliff when testifying before congress. if these tax hikes are allowed to occur, it will raise taxes on virtually all flow-through business income in the united
states come january 1, 2013. this is especially harmful to small businesses because the vast majority of small businesses are organized as flow-through business entities, such as partnerships, s corporations, limited liability companies and sole proprietorships. so unless the congress acts to prevent these massive tax increases, the vast majority of small businesses in the united states will be hit with a massive tax increase next year. it is hard to conceive of a greater impediment to job creation. all of these tax increases and economic uncertainty that they cause are going into the investment and hiring decisions of business men and women today. even president obama agrees that two-thirds of the new jobs in our economy are created by small businesses. i don't know anybody that
disagrees with that. with unemployment stuck at an unacceptably high level of 8.2%, we must not allow this tax increase to happen. america is slowly recovering from one of the greatest recessions in modern history. vice president has rightly said that for millions of americans, it feels like we are living through a depression. paul crewingman recently -- krugman recently state thad we are in a depression. i just got through reading robert carrow's recent book on lyndon johnson. he discusses in that book the tax cuts of president kennedy. and how important they were and how lyndon johnson handled it after the horrific death of our president. those tax cuts pulled us through a lot of problems.
one of the things, if i recall it correctly, that the president , president johnson said was that without them, we wouldn't have been able to pull out of that, the difficulties that we were in. here we are with a fragile recovery and a weak jobs market. president obama seems content to sit idly by and allow this scheduled $4.5 trillion tax hike to occur. i believe congress needs to act now to prevent this tax hike on america's families and job creators. as you can see, our tax legislation to-do list, it's critically important for our economy and the american people that we act now to extend the tax relief signed into law by president bush, extended by president obama. you will notice that we did have hearings on tax extenders and we
did have hearings on the fourth item on there, to prevent the 2013 tax hikes, but we have had neither a markup nor a floor presentation on either -- on any of those four, the tax extenders, the 2012 a.m.t. patch, the death tax reform and preventing the 2013 tax hikes. now, preventing those 2013 tax hikes is the most crucial piece of legislation congress must address this year, if not during the entire 112th congress. if we allow this tax relief to he can pyre as scheduled at the end of the year, almost every federal income tax payer in america will see an increase in their rates. some will see rate increases of 9% while others will see a rate increase of 87%. because the vast majority of small businesses are flow-through business entities such as partnerships, the income
from these businesses flows through the business directly on to the small business owners' individual tax returns. therefore, any increase in individuals' tax rates means those small businesses get hit with a tax increase. this tax increase lands on these small business owners even if they do not take one penny out of their business. thus, even if a small business reinvests all of its income from the business to hire more workers, pay the workers they already have or purchase equipment, they would still get hit with this looming tax hike. now, our economy simply cannot afford to take on such a fiscal shock. president obama promised that if we would just pass his $800 billion stimulus bill, that unemployment would not go above 8%. it has now been 40 months in a row since the stimulus bill passed that unemployment has been above 8%. now, looking at this problem
more broadly, economists estimate that if these current tax policies are allowed to expire, the economy could contract by approximately 3 percentage points, three percentage points. that would be a large hit to an which i that is still weak in recovering from the fiscal crisis of 2008. adding another fiscal crisis by neglecting to extend these tax policies may cause even further damage, and for those on the other side of the aisle, including the president, that argue that we should raise the top two tax rates because it is the fiscally responsible thing to do, i would just like to point out a few things. first, according to the congressional budget office, 80% of the revenue lost from extending the 2001 and 2003 tax relief provisions is found among those making less than $200,000 per year if single and $250,000
if married. secondly, the nonpartisan official scorekeeper for congress on tax issues, the joint committee on taxation tells us that 53% of all flow-through business income would be subject to the president's proposed tax hikes. because the vast majority of small businesses are organized as flow-through business entities, as i mentioned above, this is especially harmful to small businesses. given the agreed upon importance of small businesses to our economic recovery, it is a mystery to me why the president and his democrat allies would pursue tax increases on these very job creators. we simply cannot afford to raise taxes on over half of this business income. this would take the marginal tax rate on small businesses from 33% and 35% to 39.5% and 41% respectively.
just look at this particular chart here. the increase in small business top marginal rates. here we are right where the blue lines start to go up in 2012, and as you can see, the marginal rates are going to go to 40% and then up to 41%. you know, mr. president, it seems clear what the agenda of the senate should be. we should be focused like hawks on moving us back from the fiscal cliff and preventing tax-mageddon. yet, at a time when we should be working to prevent a massive tax increase, president obama and his democrat allies are spinning their wheels trying to raise taxes on politically unpopular groups. these tax hikes are already scheduled to go into effect. congress doesn't have to do anything, and everyone will pay more in taxes come 2013.
that's not a -- that is not a good sign, given that some people have called this a no-nothing senate. well, let me refer to the senate democratic leadership tax legislation to-do list. i'm sure that some people are tired of the mantra among conservatives that democrats want to raise your taxes and republicans do not, but we say it because it's true. at liberal think tanks, their employees go to work every morning and think how they can raise taxes. my friends on the other side of the aisle knowing that their constituents already feel overtaxed spend countless hours devicing ways to raise taxes in a way that only hits politically unpopular groups. or in the case of obamacare, they work tirelessly to hide the nature of the individual mandate tax and the true impact of the laws over $500 billion in taxes. the president is now devoting
his entire re-election campaign towards tax hiding in the name of fairness. here in the senate, we have already voted twice on my colleague from new jersey's proposal, the menendez oil and gas tax hike, we voted twice on it, and this is a proposal to raise taxes on oil and gas companies. first, we had hearings in the senate finance committee last year. as i said then, that was nothing more than a dog and pony show and everybody knew it. then leadership brought the bill directly to the floor, skipping the process of a markup, as usual. a few months ago, we voted on the silly buffett tax, the buett rule tax hike bill. if yotice voted on it without hearings, without a markup. this is not serious tax policy. the buffett tax is a statutory talking point and not a very good one at that. first the president said it was about deficit reduction. we pointed out to him that it raised only $47 billion in
general over ten years, a drop in the bucket given the president's trillions in deficit spending. we pointed out that implementing the buffett tax the way president obama suggested in his most recent budget would lose nearly a trillion dollars over the first ten years alone. specifically, president obama proposed replacing the a.m.t. with a buffett tax. so the white house shifted gears. now the buffett tax was about fairness. but when we pointed out that his redistributionist scheme if redirected to a lower tax bracket would have an $11 per family tax rebate, he demonized republicans for labeling him as a tax warrior. the president needs to come clear about what the buffett tax really is. it is nothing less than a second and even more damaging
alternative minimum tax, one that would force many small business owners and job creators to pay a minimum of 30% of their income in tax. as "the wall street journal" said on april 10 -- quote -- "the u.s. already has a buffett rule. the alternative minimum tax that first became law in 1969, the surest prediction in politics is that any tax that starts by hitting the rich ends up hitting the middle class because that is where the real money is." unquote. what is really rich about the buffett rule is that mr. buffett would be able to avoid his own buffett tax. so what is the president doing? why with tax-mageddon around the corner are president obama and his liberal allies dithering? why? with tax-mageddon around the corner are president obama and his liberal allies dithering
with these harmful tax increases? the answer is pure and simple -- politics. let's not forget that every minute democrats spend playing politics is a minute that we do not spend preventing the largest tax increases in american history. it is time for the senate democrat leadership to get serious and to focus on preventing this massive tax hike. instead of focusing on preventing this massive tax hike on small business, however, the president and the congressional democratic leadership have doubled down on their small business tax hike strategy. the president's speech yesterday was simply a rehash of the same old ineffective arguments, but why -- about why we should raise taxes on small businesses. his claim is that it is necessary to rein in the debt and deficit are not credible at all, considering he has added trillions of dollars to the debt since he has been in office. the senate democratic leadership
will not even present a budget proposal of their own for the senate to vote on. tax-mageddon is coming. the only good news is that congress can prevent this historic tax increase. i have an amendment to this bill that will prevent this historic tax increase and will pave the way for significant tax reform in 2013. that is where my focus will be. this tax hike -- until this tax hike is prevented -- and i hope that my colleagues will join me in preventing this looming tax increase on the american people. now, 40 of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle voted to temporarily extend this tax relief in 2010. they should do so again. president obama once said that it would be foolish to raise taxes during the economic downturn, and he acted accordingly, and i compliment him for doing so. our economy remains weak today. the only thing that appears to have changed is that president obama has apparently determined
that his path is class warfare. my hope is that my colleagues who have supported this tax relief in the past put the president's shortsighted and self-interested partisanship aside and vote on behalf of their constituents to extend this tax relief to america's families and small businesses. mr. president, i finished reading this book about lyndon johnson and about his ascension to the presidency of the united states of america. for most of the time before president kennedy's unfortunate death, lyndon johnson was kind of a fish out of water. he didn't know what to do. he wasn't utilized very well. he was totally loyal to the president, but once the murder of our president occurred, he
was very sensitive to the feelings of the kennedy family and the kennedy widow and the kennedy children. he was sensitive to the president's brothers. he didn't move into the white house until after everything was taken care of. but he decided that he was going to make sure that the president's tax cuts went through. naturally, there was a serious involvement with the civil rights bill at that time, something that many of the southern senators, most all democrats, did not want to pass. he knew that if they brought that up first, the tax bill would never pass. so it's an extremely interesting book by robert carrow as to how
the president was able to get the tax cuts through ahead of bringing up the civil rights bill and then bringing up the civil rights bill and putting the pressure on everybody, republicans and democrats, to do what should have been done many, many years before. i pay tribute to president johnson, who, of course, in the eyes of many democrats and republicans have a mixed record but he was a master in helping president kennedy's tax bill to go through. and because of that we had a period of decent expansion. i don't think i can fully understand when my colleagues on the other side of the aisle don't seem to understand the importance of cutting taxes during a time when we're in real difficulty. and still want to spend more by increasing taxes which they never seem to use to pay down
any deficits, but we use to spend more than ever before. they could take a page out of lyndon johnson's book, and really out of the book of president john f. kennedy, who was smart enough to know, intelligent enough to know and caring enough to know that during times of great difficulty, tax rate reductions are very, very important. mr. president, i just wish we could work together on these things just a little bit better. i wish both democrats and republicans would get off their high horses and start to band together and start working on what's wrong with our country instead of what's -- what's wanted as far as political
advantage goes. i have to say that to me, to tax 940,000 small businesses, which is what our leaders -- bipartisan leaders in the senate have said, it's just like asking to go into a deeper depression really. it's like saying we don't care. and what's really interesting is that a lot of these taxes are going to be socked on the people who earn less than $120,000 a year. through the health care bill. and further, with regard to the health care bill, what is now considered a tax, the bottom 10% of all wage earners or of
all people in our society, they're going to pay a pretty whopping percentage of the taxes that are going to be assessed. they're the ones who are going to get hit harder than anybody else. i think our colleagues on the other side ought to study this and figure it out. and the points that i'm making are from independent bodies that are supposed to be nonpartisan. we simply cannot allow tax-mageddon to occur, and by playing this employ, the president is -- ploy, the president is just playing politics instead of really doing what ought to be done. i think more of him than that and i hope -- i hope that i'm right that he will get off his high horse and quit playing the
the presiding officer: the senator from georgia. mr. isakson i ask unanimous consent to address the senate as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. the senate is in a quorum call. mr. isakson: i ask unanimous consent the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. isakson: thank you, madam president. i come today to share with the senate a letter which i have written to ambassador susan rice, the united states permit representative in the united nations. it's a letter i where written over a grave concern i have over actions that have taken place recently in the united nations but also reflects back on things that happened in thrast year or so that are very, very troubling to me and quite frankly very troubling to my constituents. as i know the president is aware and as all of the senate is aware, the u.n. is convened
this month in new york a conventional arms trade treat where they're looking at an international treaty on limitations and govern nance over small arms shipment and trade between countries. i've expressed my concern about the threat to the united states second amendment, our constitutional right to bear arms and my concern over the u.n. subordinating u.s. law to itself but i have never, ever been as concerned as am today to find out iran has been named without objection as a member of the conference that will lead this debate. so i want to talk about it for a few minutes because a lot of u.n. politics and u.n. governance and practices aren't really understood by the american people. but when the u.n. has one of these conferences working towards a treaty they will appoint a general conference or a general bureau or board made up of members of the u.n. who work out the details and then submit the convention to the united nations. there is a process in the united nations where anyone can object to the appointment of any other
motion that may be made on the floor because the u.n. operates under what's known as consensus which is the absence of an objection. if there is an objection to a motion that's made, then a vote takes place. iran has been seeking a position on this u.n. conference on small arms and the arms trade treaty agreement for some time and that has been known. this is the same iran the united nations has sanctioned four times in the last three years for its progress on its nuclear arms program and enrichment of nuclear material. this is the same iran that as recently as last week the u.n. sent its former chief head president to go to try and negotiate a settlement in the horrible things happening in syria. this is the same iran accused of shipping arms to syria and to the assad regime that's resulted in the killing of over 17,000 syrian people in the last year. how in anyone's right mind could they allow a country that is in the process of doing that and sanctioned four times by the
u.n. to ascend to a position to negotiate a conference and a treaty orn small arms on behalf of the united nations? now, i have written this letter to secretary rise because i have the greatest respect for ambassador rice and i know she is doing a great job. but i cannot understand for the life of me why the united states would not use its right to object to the appointment of someone like iran to a -- on any treaty much less the treaty on arms and the arms trade treed treaty. reminds me of what happened a year ago when north ye korea went on the disarmaments committee in the united nations. syria today is seeking a position on the human rights committee. these types of appointments to people who are serial violators of the governance of the committee they are trying to seek is laughable and puts the united nations and quite frankly the united states in a very embarrassing position. so i've written secretary rice today to find out the answer to the question, did we have the opportunity to object to iran being named to the conference? if we did, why did we not object to iran being named to
the conference? how in the world can we be expected to have any confidence in what would come out of this conference if in fact one of the worst perpendicular traitd traitors in the numplets is being appointed to the conference and high pressure the secretary will inform me so i can inform my constituents because frankly i cannot explain it. on the treaty itself i have great concern any u.n. treaty on small arms would intentionally or unintentionally affect the second amendment rights of the american people and i am a big supporter of the second amendment and i've had concern all along. i signed the letter with senator moran from kansas just last week to the secretary registering my objections and my concerns about the threat of that treaty itself. but to find out now that one of the 15 members writing the treaty and negotiating it this month in new york city is the nation of iran concerns me even greater. so i want to ask unanimous consent if i can to submit for the record the original of my letter to permanent representative to the united nations susan e. rice of the
united states in new york. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. isakson: i'd like to ask unanimous consent to put in the record a letter from members of the house of representatives, over a hundred of them to president obama and secretary clinton regarding the united nations arms trade treaty agreement. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. isakson: i thank the chair and i yield back the balance of my time. mr. harkin: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. harkin: madam president, first, i ask unanimous consent that at lex shaner, kelsey smith-hart and ryan brennan be granted floor privileges for the duration of today's session. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. harkin: madam president, two weeks ago, the supreme court did the right thing and settled once and for all the question of whether the affordable care act is constitutional. as i said on this floor at that -- two weeks ago, the fight is over, the law is constitutional and will stand. now, some have been saying that this is a great win for the
president or for democrats. i just don't see it that way. i believe this is a great victory for the american people, for small businesses and for our economy. now is the time to move past the political distractions and focus on the task before us: implementing the law to bring quality, affordable health coverage to every american. unfortunately, madam president, the house of representatives tomorrow will take a step in exactly the opposite direction. they've cracked open their old, tired playbook and will vote once again to repeal the affordable care act. this is the second time the house has taken this vote to repeal the entire affordable care act and they have failed every time to pass it in the senate. mr. harkin: the house has also voted 30 times -- 30 times -- to repeal pieces of the affordable
care act. and, again, have not been successful on any one of those here in the senate. in this chamber. and, again, if you say, well, there hasn't been a vote. yes, in this chamber, the senate last year, every member of the republican caucus voted to repeal health reform. that failed as well. madam president, this is just cynical politics. my republican friends don't expect their bill to -- to repeal the affordable care act to actually become law. they just want to put on grand political theater. their strategy, dreamed up by the same, old cast of chacialghts like carl rove -- character like carl r -- like karl rove is to scare people, gin up the rhetoric with lies and distortions, without offering any new ideas of their own. they don't offer any new ydz because they don't -- new ideas because they don't have any.
neither house nor senate republicans agree on any plan that controls costs, covers as many people as the affordable care act. in fact, a republican senator was recently asked to describe his plan for the health care system if the affordable care act were repealed. his answer -- and i quote -- "what we need to do is have a lot of hearings." that's their plan? "what we need to do is have a lot of hearings"? madam president, i don't think that qualifies as a plan. that won't help the millions of people that would lose access to affordable health insurance coverage. republicans in congress are partnering to the extreme right wing -- pandering to the extreme right wing, those who want to tear down everything that this president has accomplished, regardless of the cost. their strategy only makes sense if you're absolutely obsessed with two things: tearing down health reform and tearing down this president.
obsessed. obsessed with that. what would repeal mean for average americans? well, i've kind of looked at this a different way. people usually think of the republicans being against the affordable care act. but i want to just delineate what the republicans would be for, what they would be for if they were to succeed in repealing the affordable care act. so, if you -- if you vote to repeal the affordable care act, here's what you're for. you are for putting dollar limits on the insurance coverage of more than a hundred million americans, which would allow insurance companies to stop paying benefits right when you get really, really sick. they just stop paying benefits. that's what you're for if you're for repealing the affordable care act. you're -- if you're for repealing the affordable care
act, you're for kicking more than 3 million young people off their parents' insurance policy riot now. 3 million. if you vote to repeal the affordable care act, you're for allowing insurance companies to cancel people's coverage when they're sickest, just cancel the policy. you would be for allowing insurance companies to spend americans' premium dollars on c.e.o. bonuses, marketing, fancy buildings rather than on actual health care. how do i say that? well, because in the affordable care act, we have a medical loss ratio requirement, and because of that, policyholders nationwide this year, by august the 1st, will receive more than $1 billion in rebates from insurers. what that means in the future is that insurance will have to spend at least 80 cents to 85 cents of every dollar on their premiums that they get on health care. not on advertising, not on corporate jets, not on big c.e.o. salaries but on health
care. so if you vote to repeal the affordable care act, you vote to just let them go back to their old ways. they can spend 50 cents of every premium dollar on health care and the rest of it they can just spend on high salaries and fancy buildings and conventions in the cayman islands and places like that. if you vote to repeal the affordable care act, you're for allowing insurance companies to deny people coverage or to increase their premiums if they have a preexisting condition. and nearly -- close -- close to half of all americans have some form of a preexisting condition. so, yeah, i guess that's what you'd be for if you want to vote to repeal the health care bill. well, if you want to repeal the health care bill, if you vote for that, you're for taking affordable coverage away from more than 30 million people. you're for making insured americans pay for tens of billions of dollars of uncompensated care when
uninsured people show up in the emergency room. this has been estimated to cost american families an average of $1,100 in extra premiums annually. if you vote to repeal the affordable care act, you're for charging as much as $300 in co-pays for lifesaving preventive services that they now get for free, like mammograms, colon of cours coco, cancer screenings. more than 3 million people have already used these free services so they can stay healthy, get in charge of their illnesses or something early on, when it costs less to cure those diseases. so if you're for repealing the affordable care act, you're for increasing prescription drug costs on seniors by an average of $600 a year. now, that's because in the affordable care act, we close
this doughnut hole. more than 5.2 million seniors and people with disabilities, i might add, have saved a total of $3.7 billion already on prescription drug spending in this doughnut hole since we enacted the law. so if you are for repeal the law, you're for making seniors pay more money for their prescription drugs, pure and simple. and if you vote to repeal this, you're voting to deprive states and localities of vital funding to combat chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes and heart disease, ensuring that our kids have access to lifesaving vaccines. now, why do i say that? because in the health reform bill, there's the prevention and public health fund already saving lives, getting money out to communities for these very services right here, cutting health care costs. well, if you vote to repeal the
affordable care act, then you're saying that, well, we're not going to combat chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes and heart disease. well, madam president, all of these protections that i just enumerated have been enjoyed by certain select group of americans for decades. for decades. now, what select group of americans do you suppose i'm talking about that have had these protections for decades? well, i suggest that every member of congress, the senate and the house, look in the mirror. we've enjoyed these for a long time. how many times have we heard in the past when we were debating and having hearings o on the affordable care act before -- before we voted on it, how many times have we heard from our constituents that we just -- we just need the same kind of health care coverage you guys got in congress? well, that's what we did.
we had no higher -- we didn't have higher premiums because of preexisting conditions, no exclusion because of that. we had no lifetime or annual limits on benefits, no cancellation of coverage when we got sick, no co-pays for preventive services. so in health reform, we basically gave the american people the same kind of health care services that we in congress have enjoyed for a long time. so when a member of congress votes to repeal the affordable care act, he or she is effectively saying these consumer protections are great for us -- we'll keep them -- but they're too good for you, the rest of the american people. and that's just the kind of cynicism that takes your breath away. finally, let me point out that the issue -- the issue of the mandate -- the mandate issue
that's gotten so much publicity lately, well, quite frankly, this issue of this mandate or, as i call it, a free rider penalty, is -- has a long bipartisan history. seven current republican senators have previously endorsed a mandate. seven. many more who -- republican senators endorsed it and they're no longer here, they retired or got defeated. former massachusetts governor mitt romney included a similar free rider penalty as the centerpiece of romney-care in massachusetts. in fact, he said -- and i quote -- "no, no, i like mandates. mandates work." mr. romney. so we ought to stop these silly political games. the republicans' obsession with repealing health reform is based strictly on ideology. they oppose the law's crackdown on abuses by health insuran